The US workplace safety regulator said Amazon has subjected workers at yet another of its sprawling warehouses to hazardous conditions by imposing onerous production quotas and failing to provide proper medical care.
The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Thursday (Aug 3) said workers at the Logan Township, New Jersey, warehouse suffered bodily stress that was causing muscular disorders and neck and back injuries. And Amazon failed to ensure that injured employees received adequate treatment, the agency said.
OSHA said it had recommended US$15,625 in penalties, which is the maximum fine allowed under US law. Amazon has 15 days to either pay the fine or appeal to a review board.
Since January, OSHA has levied about US$150,000 in fines on Amazon for allegedly creating hazardous conditions or failing to record work-related injuries at several other warehouses across the country.
Separately on Thursday, the Missouri Workers Center, a worker advocacy group, said it had filed a complaint with OSHA on behalf of employees at an Amazon warehouse near St. Louis, Missouri. They claim the online retailer imposes excessive, unsafe work rates and that they were mistreated by Amazon’s in-house medical staff.
“OSHA’s own prior citations show a pattern of safety violations throughout Amazon’s warehouse network, a pattern which is unfortunately reflected in our own experiences,” the workers said in the complaint.
Amazon in a statement provided by a spokesperson said it takes worker safety seriously and plans to appeal the OSHA citation. The company said the rate of worker injuries recorded globally has improved significantly since 2019.
Regarding the complaint filed in Missouri, Amazon said it welcomed OSHA inspectors at the “clean, safe facility.” The company said the injury rate at the Missouri warehouse is below the industry average and has improved more than 55 per cent since 2019.
“The vast majority of employees at this facility say in anonymous surveys that they feel safe at work and believe their managers are always looking for ways to enhance safety further,” Amazon said.
Critics of Amazon have long accused the company of putting profit over safety by requiring employees to work at an unsafe pace and forgo breaks to meet demanding quotas.
The company’s safety record came under renewed scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those concerns helped spur union campaigns at warehouses across the country, including one in New York City where workers voted to unionse last year.